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CARING BROTHER'S WORK ENDLESS.

Byline: Helen Gao Staff Writer

GLENDALE - For Eriko Ortiz, eldest of seven children in a single-parent family, the day begins around 6:30 a.m., when he starts helping his siblings get ready for school, and winds down around midnight, when the Glendale High School senior finishes his homework and heads to bed.

Since his mother died of breast cancer a year ago, Ortiz has taken over caring for his brothers and sisters while his father is off at one of several jobs.

Despite his responsibilities at home, the 18-year-old has kept up with his school work and extracurricular activities while he plans for college this fall.

``He has really risen to the challenge his family faces,'' said Jan Cody, assistant principal at Glendale High. ``He balances homework, schedules and kids very well.''

In the morning, Ortiz takes three of his siblings to school - Audri, 6, Krisa, 8, and Chino, 9 - before heading to class himself. After school, he picks them up and runs errands.

In the evening, he takes turns with siblings Leika, 16, Margo, 14, and Micko, 12, cooking and doing the laundry. Finally, around 11 p.m. or later, he gets around to doing his homework.

The Glendale High senior has not only persevered in his studies, but also made time to remain active in football and track and field. He will graduate with a 2.8-grade point average June 19.

Ortiz is modest about his accomplishments.

``To me it's something natural. I am pretty used to attending to my brothers and sisters when I was also young,'' he said. ``I try to manage my time. I make sure they are all taken care of and do what I have to do.''

Ervin Ortiz, Eriko's father, said the children have had to be stronger since the loss of their mother.

``I tell them to depend on each other and try to help one another and trust one another. When I leave, I trust them,'' he said.

To support his family, he holds several side jobs in addition to working full-time as a medical records technician in Long Beach. He is on call for assembling office furniture, janitorial service and copying service.

``For me, it's a challenge to make the time to spend with (my children) to watch movies and go on picnics - the way we used to do,'' he said.

Ervin Ortiz immigrated from the Philippines in 1989. A year later, his wife, Aryn, and their children joined him.

After a four-year battle with breast cancer, the stay-at-home wife and mother died last year.

`'She was usually the one there for us, looking after us. She was the one picking us up at school, dropping us off at school,'' said Eriko Ortiz.

After high school, the Glendale High senior plans to attend Pasadena City College part-time, so he can work and look after his younger siblings.

``I want to start helping my dad out financially,'' he said. ``Right now, we can't afford a baby sitter.''

Eriko Ortiz believes the responsibility of looking after others has made him wiser.

``My experience as an older brother will be a tool I can use when I am out there in the world,'' he said.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Since their mom died, Glendale High senior Eriko Ortiz has been caregiver for six siblings, including Audri, 6, on his lap, while their dad works.

Tom Mendoza/Staff Photographer
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 11, 2001
Words:567
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